Perfect egg whites

Yield: 1 Servings

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THE EQUIPMENT: An unlined copper bowl is the very best for beating egg whites. There is a chemical reaction with the whites such that they keep their volume better, especially when incorporated into baked goods. For everyday use, stainless steel or glass are just fine. It is practically impossible to remove every trace of grease from plastic bowls and they should not be used for beating egg whites. For the purist, plastic coated beaters are also to be avoided. Instructions to use scrupulously clean implements are not fatuous. Any grease left in the bowl or on the beaters will usually (but not always) inhibit the whites from reaching their full billowing potential.

PREPARATION: It is essential that there be absolutely no trace of yolk in with the whites, since the yolks are very fatty. Egg whites will achieve full volume must faster if they are at room temperature.

The best way to handle this is to separate the eggs while still cold (it is easier then) and then dip the bowl of whites in hot water for a few minutes or allow them to warm to room temperature. Whites will gain the most volume and be less likely to break down if a bit of acid is added at the start of beating. A few drops of lemon juice will do the trick, no matter what the recipe says. A pinch of cream of tartar, as usually called for in the recipes, can also be used, but wait until the whites are foaming and beginning to take shape or the cream of tartar could have an inhibiting effect. Egg whites will sometimes beat well even if they do contain a bit of grease or yolk and if even if they are ice cold, but you can't count on it. They will most likely break down faster, too. APPEARANCE: What does a perfectly beaten egg white look like? STIFF: As you begin to beat the egg whites, they will become foamy, then look milky, then begin to rise in billows. When the billows first become stable and hold their shape when you lift the beaters, and the bubbles in the foam are nearly invisibly tiny, then stop beating. They are stiff enough. BUT NOT DRY: Many people will continue beating because they are fearful that the perfect state is just a few more seconds away. Then the whites become dull and dry looking and finally lumpy and weeping. At this point, the liquid has separated from the solids and the whites are unusable. You will have to start all over again since there is no way to "unbeat" the whites. Overbeaten whites will not fold smoothly into the other ingredients and will leave clumps of white. Their air-holding capacity has been severely reduced and the result will be a gooey cake or souffle. THE FINALE: Most recipes direct you to "fold" the egg whites into the heavier ingredients, usually as the last step of the recipe. Some recipes will instruct you to mix a portion of the whites with the batter first to lighten it before the rest of the whites are carefully folded in. This is a good idea, even if the recipe doesn't specify it. The folding technique is important.

If you just beat or stir in the egg whites, you will lose all that precious air you just beat into them. First add the whites to the bowl containing the other ingredients. To fold, you will need a flat implement like a rubber spatula. The object of folding is to amalgamate the whites and the batter without squashing the air out of the whites. To fold, hold the flat edge of the spatula at right angles to the surface of the mixture. Cut the spatula down through the center of the mixture to the bottom of the bowl, draw it along the bottom and then up the side of the bowl, lifting the batter from the bottom as you go. Give the bowl a quarter turn and repeat until the mixture is uniform. [ Adapted from an article in the WASHINGTON POST by Linda Greider, dated Dec 6, 1989 ] Courtesy of Shareware RECIPE CLIPPER 1.0

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